Beyond our normal seasonal decluttering, in the last few months, Michael and I have been doing a bit of extra purging.
Some people have expressed concern—mostly that we might get rid of something now that we’ll want later. But I trust that God will supply our every need, even if I don’t use the space I have now to keep things I might want in a decade.
I don’t think lack of a coffee table will ever be my biggest risk. Although Michael and I are not among the wealthiest Americans, our lives have been characterized by abundance. I think we need to be more wary of warnings like:
> Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6 ESV)
Rotted, moth-eaten, corroded… those kinds of damage often come from a lack of use. Food that goes bad before it is eaten, fabric that attracts silverfish, medicine that expires before we’ve used half the bottle, batteries corroding in gadgets that sit around gathering dust… riches whose lack of use testifies against us.
We see a certain level of risk in our stuff: letting it be a determining factor in decisions (like whether to take advantage of opportunities, where we go next, how we use our space and time now), letting our affection for things compete with love for God and people, letting our space become so crowded we can’t enjoy the things we have, letting maintenance of our stuff suck up our time, letting our stuff own us.
But it isn’t just the risk that has motivated us to purge. A few weeks ago, we saw the reward of striving for a simpler life as my sister-in-law moved in with us. This is explicitly the kind of opportunity we’ve been trying to allow when we talk about prioritizing people over possessions.
I’m thrilled that we have this opportunity to build better relationship with Michael’s sister (and I trust, given her acceptance the offer, that she considers the arrangement beneficial as well).
That isn’t to say that knowing there is risk from holding stuff tightly and reward available for getting rid of stuff made the process automatic. I still have difficulty facing my irrational urge to keep paper, but keeping in mind why I want to declutter does offer some motivation to ask whether a ream of wide-ruled paper is better sitting in a drawer or sitting on a shelf the thrift store where it might get picked up by someone who might actually write on it.